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Trump Doubles Down on Warning to North Korea; North Korea Issues Usual Threatening Line; Aired 7-7:30a ET
Aired August 11, 2017 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[07:00:00] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What he's trying to do. I thought he would tamp it down.
JAMES MATTIS, DEFENSE SECRETARY: The American effort is diplomatically led. It's gaining diplomatic results.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There are no mixed messages.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's important for the administration to be speaking with one voice.
TRUMP: I've always found Paul Manafort to be a very decent man but I thought that's pretty tough spot.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Robert Mueller thinks there was evidence of a crime in Manafort's apartment.
TRUMP: I'm not dismissing anybody.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The president is in no way deferring to Vladimir Putin.
TRUMP: I'm very thankful that he let go of a large number of people. Now we have a smaller payroll.
REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY, CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: This is the most ridiculous thing I have heard the president say in six months.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome to your NEW DAY. Alisyn is off. Brianna Keilar joins us this morning. If you haven't tuned in yet, she's thrown me under the bus once. Let's see how it goes this hour.
KEILAR: Maybe twice.
CUOMO: We do begin with breaking news. North Korea's state news agency releasing a statement saying President Trump is driving the situation on the Korean peninsula to the, quote, "brink of nuclear war." This comes hours after President Trump doubled down on his warning to
North Korea saying the threat to unleash fire and fury may not have been tough enough.
KEILAR: Defense Secretary James Mattis says despite the rhetoric the U.S. effort on North Korea is diplomatically led. How will President Trump respond to the latest statement from North Korea?
The global resources of CNN have all of this covered for you. We want to start with CNN's Will Ripley live for us in Beijing with the latest -- Will.
WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, I want to get right to this brand new statement that has been released by North Korea just within the last few minutes. The title of this statement on KCNA, the North Korean news agency, is U.S. nuclear war fanatic. And now let me read you a portion of it.
"Trump is driving the situation on the Korean peninsula to the brink of a nuclear war, making such outcries as the U.S. will not rule out a war against the DPRK."
And then they talk a lot about the history because history is very important when you're talking about North Korea. The Korean War from 1950 to 1953 killed $3 million people and North Korea tells its citizens that the U.S. almost dropped a nuclear bomb on them back then and they believe, they tell their citizens that the U.S. is ready to do it again.
Another portion of this article that's important, quote, "All these facts go to prove that the U.S. is indeed the mastermind of the nuclear threat, the heinous nuclear war fanatic."
So there you go. President Trump's remarks really do play in the long standing North Korean narrative that the United States is preparing for nuclear war. And now in the region there is growing tensions, growing concern, and things are happening that might remind people of when they were growing up during the Cold War era.
I want to show you the front page of the "Pacific Daily News" in Guam. The headline says it all, "14 Minutes." That's how long Guam Homeland Security says it would take for a North Korean ballistic missile to reach the island. And they also are issuing fact sheets, pamphlets that they're handing out to citizens.
One of the pieces of advice, do not look at the flash or fire ball. It's very frightening for people to think about the possibility of a nuclear war. But keep in mind, North Korea has been making threats like this for a very long time. And at this point this remains a war of words -- Chris.
CUOMO: And so, Will, let's just get a little bit more perspective on that. I mean, nobody in the business right now has been to North Korea and television as much as you have. I get you about this. That this is what North Korea does. They talk in a hyperbolic fashion often. OK. But now you have a different dynamic where the president of the United
States is matching the talk. And now you see the North Koreans by your own reporting ratcheting it up to an even higher level of talk.
Do you believe or have a suspicion that it remains in that sphere, or, or is it even slightly more likely now that there is a destabilizing influence and potential action because of the response from the United States?
RIPLEY: We need to watch North Korea's actions in the coming days. This kind of rhetoric that we're hearing today is very familiar rhetoric from North Korea. It doesn't concern me as much as what we saw earlier in the week where they laid out that detailed plan to conduct what would be their most provocative missile test ever, putting those missiles over Japan, flying 2100 miles and bringing them down less than 20 miles from Guam and all of the people and U.S. military assets there.
That was alarming. And if North Korea does follow through with that plan, then that does ratchet things up in the region to a new level. But U.S. intelligence is indicating at least for now in the areas that they're able to observe from spy satellites they do not see any imminent preparations for a North Korean missile launch.
The Korean People's Army said they were going to give a plan to their Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un, to have him look it over, and then he would make the final decision . So if North Korea goes through with that, that does escalate the situation. If North Korea continues to put out statements like this, this is familiar. This is something that we have seen.
[07:05:05] And from speaking with North Korean officials as recently as a month and a half ago, while they insist that they're not afraid to use these weapons that they're developing, I do believe that these weapons are intended to be a deterrent, to prevent the United States from firing the first shot. In other words saying we can do a lot of damage and kill a lot of people if you mess with North Korea.
That's the message that North Korea may be trying to send, but August is a very tense month. The regularly scheduled joint military exercises between the U.S. and South Korea are due to kick off this month and that is always a tense time here in North Korea, often does show military force through things like missile launches when the U.S. military exercises are taking place.
That's why you have China. Right here in Beijing, officials reiterating just within the last few hours putting out a statement calling for calm and caution and urging all sides to avoid behavior and rhetoric that will escalate the station and push the peninsula down the road towards an accidental war.
CUOMO: And that may be the actor we watch most closely. Let's see if the president's tough talk makes China act differently than in the past iterations of the same conflict.
All right. Will Ripley, thank you very much. Very helpful. So North Korea's latest threat comes as President Trump promises to
continue his tough talk when it comes to the regime.
CNN's Barbara Starr joining us from the Pentagon with more. And he said, you know, past presidents were weak. President Obama wouldn't talk about it. I will talk. Where it gets us, we'll see.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Chris. A lot of talk, a lot of words, but here's a couple of points in reality. We are being reminded, as Will just said, this exercise is coming up in the coming days. We will see some additional U.S. forces arrive on the Korean peninsula regularly scheduled. They're doing an exercise. Everybody knows they're coming. But it's a visual picture that may upset North Korea.
We also know that the president as any president would has not ruled out a preemptive strike against North Korea. The United States would never rule anything out. The words are focusing on if North Korea were to attack Guam, what the consequences would be for the regime. The president doubling down going way beyond fire and fury.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I read about we're in Guam by August 15th, let's see what he does with Guam. If he does something in Guam, it will be an event the likes of which nobody's seen before, what will happen in North Korea.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: And when you say that, what do you mean?
TRUMP: You'll see. You'll see. And he'll see. He will see.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Is that a dare?
TRUMP: It's not a dare. It's a statement. It has nothing to do with dare. That's a statement.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STARR: Now Defense Secretary James Mattis taking a bit of a longer view. Very much knowing the Guam threat is out there, the U.S. military ready to deal with that, but also reminding everybody there is a much longer term strategy here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATTIS: The American effort is diplomatically led. It has diplomatic traction. It is gaining diplomatic results and I want to stay right there right now. The tragedy of war is well enough known. It doesn't need another characterization beyond the fact that it would be catastrophic.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STARR: And obviously the U.S. intelligence community, the U.S. military watching all of this around the clock. They are always watching but very eagle-eyed at the moment -- Brianna.
KEILAR: All right. Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, thank you.
North Korea's neighbors are caught in the crosshairs of this standoff. South Korea and Japan are used to living with intimidation from Pyongyang, but now they're preparing in earnest and vowing to retaliate.
CNN's Kyung Lah is live for us in Tokyo with more.
Kyung, tell us how they're reacting there.
KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're seeing Japan take a defensive posture, a more defensive posture than we have seen in the past because of the specificity of that Guam threat from North Korea.
We spoke to the Ministry of Defense and they told us that as we are speaking, in the overnight hours here in Tokyo, daytime during the United States, they are moving these ground based PAC-3 missile interceptors, they're moving them from central Japan where they're currently housed in a military base and they're moving to those prefectures including Hiroshima that the North Koreans specifically said that missiles may fly over while they head over to Guam. So the Japanese placing these interceptors there just in case they come close to Japan.
We're also seeing a more defensive posture from Russia. We're hearing from Russian state via Russian state television media that Russia says in the Far East they are beefing up their defensive systems because of the North Korean threat -- Brianna.
KEILAR: And Kyung, it seems -- we heard from Will Ripley.
[07:10:02] He said the more concerning thing was earlier this week when North Korea was talking about this detailed plan that obviously they're preparing for this missile getting closer to Japan. That is primarily the concern there in Japan and has really stood out to them as something different than just the normal rhetoric, right?
LAH: Absolutely. It's very specific. And the fact that these missiles were going to fly over certain prefectures, that's really what's causing alarm here. It's the specificity of that that's really the game changer here as far as the defensive posture.
CUOMO: Now it wouldn't be the first time that North Korea had sent missiles over Japan. They haven't done it recently, but they have done it before. But again, it gets you into this uncomfortable reckoning of what words portend action and what words are just hot talk.
Let's bring in our CNN panel here. Politics reporter, editor-at-large Chris Cillizza, CNN political analyst John Avlon, CNN military and diplomatic analyst, John Kirby.
John, you were in this fray, OK. You lived this. And in fact now you're being blamed for part of it, as part of the Obama administration. Let's start with that. President Trump's criticism that past presidents, including Obama, were weak. Obama specifically as president wouldn't even talk about it. The president's quote, "I will talk. It needs to be done."
KIRBY: Well, it was oversimplified. Obviously President Obama wasn't afraid to talk about the problem with North Korea. As a matter of fact, he presided in just the last year of his administration over then the toughest international sanctions ever enacted against the regime and he worked his problem very, very hard for the entire eight years as did his two predecessors.
Look, President Trump is not wrong when he complains about the fact that he inherited a much worse -- much more accelerated program. He's right to be concerned about that. The sense of his urgency that his team has had over this has been appropriate. But, you know, going back and just blaming past presidents is I think -- it's just a ridiculous kind of thing to do because this is a problem that the whole international community has been facing.
KEILAR: So can you speak to that, though? Because you look at -- I think a lot of people who haven't been following North Korea look at the last 25 years and they say well, nothing did happen. Especially supporters of Donald Trump. Other administrations were not able to make progress. But then you have experts who say there's really only one way to pursue things with North Korea when you're talking about such a danger as a nuclear weapon.
AVLON: Right. I mean, look, you're dealing with a nation like none other which is really sort of the last following, this cult on earth. And it has been moving toward nuclear weapons because from their perspective that's the only guarantor of the regime's success and the Kim family regime's security.
And look, when Bill Clinton announced to the world that the deal he and Secretary Perry made and would make it so that basically the North Korea would denuclearize, clearly that did not happen. But what you have is an administration successfully trying to delay as best they can. And I think the Trump administration and the National Security team deserves credit for trying to not have strategic patience so to speak and instead really confront this problem with a sense of urgency because we've gotten to the place where a nuclear armed ICBM could threaten an American city.
And that's the clear red line. So they've been taking a much more aggressive tack in Asia and South Korea -- and North Korea from the get-go. And they deserve some credit for that. The problem is the president by ratcheting up the rhetoric to a reckless level, to a point where it almost sound like an echo chamber with the kind of North Korean rhetoric we've come to expect which is unhinged to the point of parity, creates a real danger for the world. A real sense of instability and one of the big questions is, does that draw China in? Because they prized stability over all.
And that's -- you can project and hope there's a degree of strategy to it. The problem is we consistently see strategy being made around the president's reckless comments, not having to be a vehicle for strategy.
CILLIZZA: That's right. What -- John's 100 percent right. You see always the strategy and the policy moving on, certainly defensible ground. Liberals might not like it. For somebody -- he got to like, you know, Republican president, like, he's going to do certain things. So that moves along this line. Then Trump moves along. It's not aligned. It's back, forward, over here, to the left, to the right, up, down --
CILLIZZA: Right. And that's what's difficult is the policy is dealing with the new reality of a nuclearized North Korea. The rhetoric and what he says and how he provokes purposely I think doesn't necessarily mesh with the policy, but then the policy has to be bent to fit somewhere in the same universe as the rhetoric.
This happens a lot with him. It's not just North Korea. But it does make it difficult to sort of marry those two. The strategy and the policy that's going underneath the surface. Right?
[07:15:04] I mean, it's like a glacier. Trump's statements are just the top of it. Now they're important but they're just the top of it. There's a lot of diplomacy and work going on below it, but the top of it impacts what happens below. I think he understands that. But I don't think he understands fully the impact of what he just says stuff, what that means from a strategic and policy perspective and it leaves people scrambling to try to figure out to architect policy around it.
KIRBY: I'll tell you, I think he's -- I'll piggy back on that, he's undermining actually all the good work that his team is trying to do. I agree that this is one of the national security issues, probably the only one that I think his team has really handled with deliberate thoughtful measured work. And when he goes out there and he says these hyperbolic things, he's actually undermining their efforts.
You heard Secretary Mattis in that clip we just played really trying to walk this back and really making it clear that from his perspective he wants diplomacy to lead and that he still believes there's room for that. Every time the president gets up and says, you know, fire and fury and he'll see, he's actually taking oxygen away from that effort and frankly, Chris, he's closing down his own decision space. He's actually removing from his quiver arrows of choices that he can actually have going forward.
CUOMO: Yes, that's my concern and that I don't get yet. I mean, what's your take on this? Which is I get tough talk. I get that he'll be congratulated for it by certain sectors. Perceives strength is often congratulating. But what happens if you have to act here? Every military expert tells us you have no good options.
KEILAR: And on Syria, right, he was able to have a certain rhetoric and then there was an action. But North Korea isn't Syria. So you can't follow that same game plan with a North Korea. You can't just, you know, strike an airstrip even with a nonnuclear weapon and then just see, like, how it goes, right? You can't do that.
CILLIZZA: Fire and fury, right, is not a policy. I mean, again, this is the issue. What does that mean? He doesn't -- you'll see. We'll see.
AVLON: It's a nuclear threat.
CILLIZZA: Right. I mean, how else can you take it?
AVLON: That's the only way.
CILLIZZA: But then you have Mattis and Tillerson saying, no, there's no change in the region.
KEILAR: It could be nonnuclear, but does that matter? Even if it's a --
KEILAR: Also why would you -- why would you do that?
CILLIZZA: I mean, this is the problem with Trump. Even if he doesn't mean nuclear, even if that was not his intent, reasonable people could think that.
KEILAR: He did say, like, very few countries have seen. So I get --
CILLIZZA: Like the world has never seen.
CUOMO: But it only matters specifically, yes, I get China and I get that this could be a great provocation ingenious provocation to China to say, whoa, whoa, as you said, we want stability more than anything else, so we will do X which they haven't done.
CUOMO: That would be an amazing conclusion here. But it matters what North Korea thinks. Here's their statement. Let's put it up for people. And their response to the rhetoric. Do we have the statement to put out? Wait for it. Wait for it. We should play some light music.
Look, I'll characterize it for you. Good. There it is.
"Trump is driving the situation on the Korean peninsula to the brink of a nuclear war. Making such outcries as the U.S. will not rule out a war against the DPRK." Now, John Kirby, I understand and I've read my history, I get that
hyperbole is part of the status quo there, to quote Cillizza, it is what it is. However, it does seem as though this is action and reaction. Is it a little bit more dangerous in this context or is this more of the same to your ear?
KIRBY: I've got to tell you when I looked at that statement I was actually a little pleasantly surprised that it was as measured as it is given where the rhetoric got to yesterday and in the wake of the Korean's army, the general's very specific threat to Guam. So it is more in line with typical North Korean statements out of Pyongyang.
I think we can take a little cold comfort in that. But it doesn't mean at all that the tensions are any real -- any less in any significant way as far as I'm concerned.
KEILAR: All right. John Kirby, Chris Cillizza, John Avlon, thank you.
And also it makes you wonder, you know, in a way is it seeding leadership to China if you're sort of expecting them rhetorically to come in and be the measured one?
BERMAN: But everybody says they have the most leverage. You know, China is a big player on the world stage. Maybe it is time for them to step up and do their part.
KIRBY: But -- yes, well, that time has passed. They're not going to be bullied. This is the other thing that -- you know, bullying President Xi does not work. I do hope that China will step in. You're right. They have more influence than any other nation in the world that they have not been willing to exert, but they're not going to be bullied into doing something.
KEILAR: All right. Gentlemen, thank you very much.
CUOMO: All right. So North Korea gave its latest response. We just read it to you. So what should the U.S. response be? Our next guest says it's time to lower the temperature.
"New York Times" columnist Thomas Friedman. He feeds your brain every time he is on. He is on next.
[07:23:59] CUOMO: North Korea responding to President Trump's threats in a dramatic new statement released moments ago. North Korea's state news agency saying, quote, "Trump is driving the situation on the Korean peninsula to the brink of a nuclear war," making such outcries as, quote, "the U.S. will not rule out a war against the DPRK."
Thomas Friedman joins us now. He is the author of "Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist's Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations."
Tom, good to have you back on the show. THOMAS FRIEDMAN, NEW YORK TIMES COLUMNIST: Great to be with you,
CUOMO: So give us some perspective here. We're trying to balance what seems like very scary talk with the context of hyperbole being something that North Korea has practiced but now with the introduction of hyperbole on the part of the United States, what are we to make of this dynamic?
FRIEDMAN: Well, Chris, let's start off by talking about what's new and what's not new. What's new is that North Korea has developed missiles that are intercontinental that can hit the territory of the United States. What's new is that they seem to have perfected the ability to put a warhead on those missiles.
[07:25:04] What is not new is they don't have a warhead that seems to not burn up on re-entry. But they're moving in a direction to be able to threaten the United States with a nuclear weapon. What is not new, though, I believe, is that the idea that North Korea thinks it can launch one of those weapons and survive an attack. In other words, it would be an act of suicide. What's not new is the United States doesn't believe that it can pre-empt such an attack from a standing start without killing millions of people on the Korean peninsula including Americans.
So that's what's new and what isn't new. But given that fact, it seems to me the only rational long-term strategy of the United States is to, one, deter the North Koreans by our own anti-missile systems. We're doing that, we've been doing that, we continue to do that effectively, and to tighten the economic sanctions around them, so they will stop testing these missiles and ultimately agree to a denuclearization deal.
I think the best way to go about doing that is by putting on the table a very clear American peace offer to the North Koreans. If you fully denuclearize and end your missile program, we will offer you full peace, full diplomacy, full engagement, economic aid and an end to the Korean War. If you don't we will tighten the economic sanctions and by putting this plan on the table, the entire world would see who is the person who is actually threatening the stability of the Korean peninsula.
That then would keep Russia, China, the Japanese and the South Koreans all on our side which will make the sanctions even stronger. That's how you really mess up the North Koreans. I think we play into their hands when you engage in a tit-for-tat prior and brimstone threats which ultimately I think have no long term sustainability and have frightened the very allies we need to sustain sanctions.
KEILAR: Do you see, Tom, President Trump making that pivot from the rhetoric that we've been hearing here in the last couple of days and being able -- he did say he didn't take negotiations off the table. We heard that yesterday. Do you think that he can abandon what has been very fiery as he put it rhetoric and move towards a more productive strategy? It doesn't necessarily seem to be in tune with his style. FRIEDMAN: Well, there's no question President Trump is not the one
who caused this situation in North Korea. It's been a bipartisan effort of Republican and Democratic administrations going back for a long time. This was build up over a long time but it can be unbuilt I think patiently over a long time. I don't mind ratcheting up the threat -- the rhetoric to some degree to alert the world that this is a very dangerous situation.
But that rhetoric has to be tied to a long-term strategy. Both military of building up our anti-missile deterrents around North Korea and diplomatic of enlisting more and more of the world particularly China, Japan and South Korea on sanctions against North Korea. That's what ultimately threatens that regime and puts a choice before them of either you denuclearize or you really will completely run out of money.
That is what will really squeeze them. What plays to their strength is if we look just like we're equals, two crazy men threatening each other with fire and brimstone.
CUOMO: Fire and fury, you mean, Tom.
FRIEDMAN: You're right.
CUOMO: Here's what I don't get. And forgive me for this, I understand what you're saying. It sounds very reasonable. Why hasn't that been tried? And if it has been tried, why hasn't it worked?
FRIEDMAN: It's a good question, Chris. We have never actually put a full-fledged treaty on the table. We have never gone to that length so far. It has to do with a worry by some administrations that some of that would look weak on our part. I think it would actually be an incredible source of strength because what I'm describing to you, Chris, is actually the bottom line of the diplomacy we've been trying for all along.
It has always been implicit in our position that if the North Koreans denuclearized and end this threat, we are ready to end the Korean war, which has been open since now its inception. We're just in an armistice. That's always been implicit in our position. What I'm saying is make it explicit, not as an act of weakness, because that explicit declaration that we are ready to end the war with you, open an embassy in Pyongyang, engage in economic trade and aid, et cetera, that is precisely what will give us the moral high ground to sustain sanctions for a long, long time.
Then the Chinese can't say we are the threat. The Russians can't say we are the threat. We've actually got the Russians and the Chinese on our side now in the latest U.N. vote. We want to keep them there. We want to create a situation where North Korea looks around and the entire world, including its neighbors are against it. And it's under tighter and tighter sanctions noose.
KEILAR: But how does that work? And I wonder what the Kim regime --